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Adventures of a Mathematician

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The autobiography of mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, one of the great scientific minds of the twentieth century, tells a story rich with amazingly prophetic speculations and peppered with lively anecdotes. As a member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1944 on, Ulam helped to precipitate some of the most dramatic changes of the postwar world. He was among the first t ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published July 23rd 1991 by University of California Press (first published 1976)
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Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"This was more agreeable than the present style of the research papers or books which have so much symbolism and formulae on every page. I am turned off when I see only formulas and symbols, and little text. It is too laborious for me to look at such pages not knowing what to concentrate on. I wonder how many other mathematicians really read them in detail and enjoy them."

This is quite remarkable coming from one of the top mathematicians of his time. His own approach to mathematics was definitel
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Stanislaw Ulam was a prominent twentieth-century mathematician, famous for inventing Monte Carlo methods -- and co-inventing the hydrogen bomb. This is not quite an autobiography. It's one part memoir, one part musings on science and mathematics, and one part character sketches and anecdotes. It originally started, not as an autobiography of Ulam, but as a memoir of his friend and colleague, John von Neumann. However, the scope grew, and it's now a long picaresque tour of Ulam's life, times, and ...more
Paul Conroy
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look into the mind of a genius!

Stan Ulam documents growing up in Lwow, Poland, how he became enchanted by math, and would ultimately go on to be the father of the H-Bomb, in Los Alamos. Along the way he wrote countless papers, but is probably best known for discovering the "Monte Carlo Method", today much used in statistical analysis.
Nataliya Borys
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Прочитала я книгу видатного математика, одного з авторів водневої бомби, польського єврея зі Львова, Станіслава Уляма, «Пригоди математика». Народився у Львові в заможній єврейській сім'ї львівського адвоката Юзефа Уляма, нащадка переселенців з Венеції. Його мати, Ганна Ауербах, народилася в Стрию, невеликому містечку близько 60 миль на південь від Львова, біля Карпатських гір. Її батько був промисловцем, який займався сталлю і був представником заводів в Галичині та Угорщині.

Як молодий амбітний
Maurizio Codogno
Questa è la seconda autobiografia di un matematico polacco che ho letto ultimamente, dopo quella di Mark Kac (vedi ). Ulam era a Los Alamos nel progetto Manhattan, ed è stato uno degli sviluppatori della bomba H; insomma non esattamente l'ultimo arrivato. Però il libro non mi è affatto piaciuto. Non è tanto il problema dell'incomprensibilità della matematica che ha fatto, anche se garantisco che gli accenni presenti non danno assolutamente alcun appiglio ...more
Dec 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Ulam didn't write this book; he dictated it. It was a good tactic for him, and the result is a book with a lot of personality. Ulam has long been a hero of mine, and he lived through a lot of interesting stories. Worth reading if you enjoy biography, even if you know nothing of mathematics.
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Świetna autobiografia, praktycznie zapomnianego u nas wybitnego polskiego naukowca.
Tibor Stanko
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
Ulam's life was undeniably fascinating. I'm hesitant to give four stars because the book was at times not an easy read – it often felt like it would benefit from a more thorough editing.

That said, the book is still worth reading, especially if you want to know more about the background of the Manhattan project and the birth of computers. Not from the technical point of view though: Ulam uses the technical jargon very sparsely, but what I found interesting is his account of people he has met and
Jan 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal account of the life of Ulam and many other great intellects of his time. His style is captivating, the clarity of delivery is inspiring. Content-wise, a lot can be said about the richness of his experience, the great achievements of his life, the people around him, the tragedies and more... I'll only comment that I was awestruck by the life of a genius, and certainly this has been the closest I have ever come to understanding how great scientists live their lives.
Peter Reczek
Jul 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From the co-holder on the patent on the hydrogen bomb, Ulam was a mathematicians mathematician. Especially good on his early life in Poland
Igbal Safarov
Sep 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book about the great scholar, great person and very interesting life owner. The book definitely deserves my week to dedicate reading it.
Alexander Temerev
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It is just me, of course, but I happen to love exactly this type of autobiographical prose, where accurate accounts and amusing stories for nearly all members of the Manhattan Project are given.
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Ulam was born in 1909 in a wealthy assimilated polonophone Jewish family in Lemberg, Austria-Hungary. When he was a child, the city became Lwów, Poland; by the time it became Lviv, Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, he was already in the United States. Ulam showed a talent for mathematics in school (I was surprised to read that he learned algebra from a German translation of Euler's Elements of Algebra), and joined the famous prewar Polish school of mathematics: he knew Banach, Steinhaus and K ...more
Ronald Wise
Jul 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the mathematical and scientific specifics of this book would probably be intimidating - if not overwhelming - to most readers, the author relates his life story with plenty of enjoyable and easily understood material regarding his personal and professional relationships with many of the greatest minds of the 20th century. And perhaps most interesting was his willingness to frequently interrupt his own narrative to wonder about the nature of human memory, abstract thinking, scientific talen ...more
Nick Black
Dec 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best of the Bomb Generation of physicists' autobiographies, right up there with Wigner's and superior to Teller's. This was the great golden age of quantum physics and development of mathematical methods for physics, two fields Ulam was uniquely poised to exploit. Necessary reading for any nuclear buffs due to Ulam's primary role in thermonuclear development (fission primary sparking radiation-driven ablation of a Li-D (Lithium-Deuteride) secondary is, after all, now known as the Tell ...more
Feb 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Ulam fue uno de los científicos más famosos que trabajó en Los Alamos para la construcción de la bomba atómica. Este libro, más que una autobiografía, es una recopilación de recuerdos de su vida, anotados rápidamente en trozos de papel o grabados en cintas, y después entregados a su abnegada esposa que tuvo que hacer una labor de chinos para darle forma de libro. El contenido es fascinante (trata sobre la relación de sus matemáticas con el trabajo de sus compañeros físicos), pero la forma es des ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: auto-biography
Richtig spannend sind die Abenteuer zwar nicht, aber hochinteressant. Kleiner Philosoph der Mann. Erwähnt sogar Go.
Besonders beeindruckend wie er von seiner Jugend in Polen berichtet, von irgendwelchen Leuten und dann immer lakonisch sagt ... wurde 1944 von den Deutschen ermordet, ... kam im Konzentrationslager x um. Gerade weil er es nur nebenher erwähnt.
Long Mai
Dec 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is my first reading about a mathematician's autobiography. The book is good. The author is a great mathematician, and he depicted a real picture of famous mathematicians: Von Neumann, Einstein, Fermi,...
Oct 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Interesting commentary on the manhattan project and many great minds of the 2oth century.
Ed Boyno
Sep 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
A readable autobiography of a distinguished mathematician. I enjoyed his insights into the mathematical process as well as his account of the Manhattan Project.
Feb 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Not as compelling as Feynman, but another thought provoking autobiography from someone who was attached to the Manhattan Project (though this is about his whole life, not just that.)
James deBoer
Nov 08, 2012 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading this book, it made me realize that life is much longer than it seems.

However, it lost my interest about halfway through (when he got to Los Alamos), so only 3 stars.
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Thai Son
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
His last chapter, reflecting on mathematics and science, leaves a lot of food for thought.
Yuri Vishnevsky
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“I remember what seemed to me a bright remark he made after a month's stay in England about the difference between Polish and English "intellectual" conversations. He said that in Poland people talked foolishly about important things, and in England intelligently about foolish or trivial things.” 2 likes
“Some could say it is the external world which has molded our thinking-that is, the operation of the human brain-into what is now called logic. Others-philosophers and scientists alike-say that our logical thought (thinking process?) is a creation of the internal workings of the mind as they developed through evolution "independently" of the action of the outside world. Obviously, mathematics is some of both. It seems to be a language both for the description of the external world, and possibly even more so for the analysis of ourselves. In its evolution from a more primitive nervous system, the brain, as an organ with ten or more billion neurons and many more connections between them must have changed and grown as a result of many accidents.
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